FOX 8 Defenders: Woman at center of Essence scam sentenced to 15 years

FOX 8 Defenders: Woman at center of Essence scam sentenced to 15 years
Nakesia Washington faces dozens of charges related to an alleged travel scam. (Source: (JPSO via Nola.com))

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - A Harvey woman accused of stealing thousands of dollars from Essence Festival attendees last year pleaded guilty Wednesday (July 3), according to the Jefferson Parish District Attorney’s office.

Nakesia Washington admitted to scamming a total of 98 people who thought they were purchasing vacation packages from her company, OBL Travel. The victims told investigators they were led to believe Washington booked them festival tickets, VIP passes, hotel rooms and even travel insurance. It wasn’t until the victims arrived in New Orleans for their trips, that they realized they’d been scammed.

Investigators said Washington deposited over $240,000 into her business’s bank account, which the DA said she used to pay for personal expenses, such as dining out, paying for gas and shopping.

While Washington did provide some of the services her customer’s paid for, many were left without hotel rooms or the other items they paid for.

In the end, prosecutors said Washington’s victims lost more than $80,000 in the scam.

The DA’s office said all the victims live out of state, but many provided written letters to be read aloud in court Wednesday, expressing their anger, pain and financial suffering caused by Washington’s actions.

After accepting Washington’s plea, Jude Ellen Shrier Kovach sentenced her to 15 years in prison, with six suspended, leaving her with a total of nine years to serve. Three of Washington’s suspended years will be served on active probation, during which time she will be required to pay restitution to the victims.

A restitution hearing is scheduled for July 11 to determine the amount Washington will pay.

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